By Bryn Huntpalmer for Modernize
Finding products for home improvement projects that not only do the job but also deliver proven environmental benefits is getting easier all the time—we should know, at Modernize we make it our mission to incorporate green, ethically-sourced materials for beautiful and conscious home upgrades. The good news is that there is a much broader range of certified eco-friendly home “do-it-yourself” (DIY) products than ever before, and it’s getting better all the time.
The key word here is “certified.” There are many products claiming to provide environmental benefits, but it is important to look for independent certification of those claims by credible third-parties. For instance, SCS Global Services based in the San Francisco bay area has been a pioneer in third-party certification of environmental and sustainability claims since the early 1980s, and provides an extensive listing well-recognized certifications for DIY products on its Certified Green Product Guide.
Here are some of the products that made our list. Though by no means exhaustive, this list will give you an idea of the range of interesting options available as you plan your next home improvements.
When it comes to flooring options, the range of eco-friendly products is surprisingly large. With deforestation being such a dangerous threat to our climate and ecosystems, it’s important to consider where (and if) you are purchasing certified wood flooring materials. (This goes for other wood products, too, like molding, wall panels, and cabinetry). Thankfully, a group called the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) does a remarkably effective job of recognizing forests that are managed and harvested sustainably, offering ethically-sourced options to the public. The FSC has more than 57 million acres of land certified as sustainable forests in Northern America! The FSC maintains a list of all of its certified wood products on its website.
You can also purchase reclaimed wood for your flooring by companies like Mohawk Industries’ “Reclaimed Revival” flooring, or Logs End, which recovers fallen logs from rivers and restores them to prevent unnecessary degradation of forests. Which is good news if you don’t already have wooden floors in your home.
In addition to these intriguing choices, you might also consider a wide range of hard surface flooring materials, such as vinyl, linoleum, rubber, cork, bamboo, and ceramic. Lines of all of these products are now certified to meet strict Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standards under the FloorScore® program, developed by the Resilient Floor Coverings Institute. High performing products made from certified recycled materials are another good way to go. By choosing these products, you can help reduce pressures on our nation’s landfills. Armstrong World Industries is an example of a company that does both – offering an extensive range of linoleum flooring products made from recycled materials and certified as well under the FloorScore IAQ standard. Capri Cork, Amorim Cork, and Shnier all have FloorScore certified cork flooring products, which is durable and easy to install, in a kaleidoscope of colors.
A newcomer to the certification field is the Green Squared® ecolabel program established by the Tile Council of North America. A growing number of ceramic and glass tiles products, including flooring tiles, are certified to this responsible manufacturing performance benchmark standard, along with tile installation materials. Metropolitan Ceramics, Crossville, and Cooperative Ceramica de Imola are three well-known tile manufacturers offering certified tile product lines.
If it’s carpeting you’re after, look for products certified to the NSF/ANSI 140 Sustainable Carpet Standard. This standard sets requirements for the manufacturing process, reclamation of materials at the end of life, energy usage, use of environmentally preferred materials, and public health issues. While most of the carpets certified to this standard are intended for commercial and industrial uses, some are completely appropriate for use in the home. Two of the leaders in this area are Tandus Centiva ER# Modular Tile and Infinity RE Modular Carpet Tile.
In addition, a growing array of eco-friendly carpets and rugs made from natural fibers with little or no chemical treatment are now available. The lack of chemical treatment is important because of the sobering fact that many of these treatments and even the adhesives on the back of the carpets contain formaldehyde and other carcinogens that are toxic and dangerous to your respiratory health and the atmosphere. Check the label on the carpet or the company website to make sure it's been tested and certified under a reputable Indoor Air Quality program, such as the SCS Indoor Air Advantage program. Contempo Floor Coverings and Natural Homeoffers are some of the many great brands to choose from if you’re not sure where to start.
The eco-friendly paint market has greatly evolved, and many perform like premium conventional paints that offer good coverage, durability, and vibrant colors, but without harmful odors, chemicals, or added solvents. Some great options to choose from are Kelly Moore’s Enviro Coat and Acry-Plex, Shikoku International’s EcoDeVita™, Farrow & Ball, Mythic Paint, and Green Planet Paints). Be sure to check the company website for your preferred paint choice to see if they have been certified to meet independent Indoor Air Quality standards.
Kitchens and Bathrooms
You also have many options to choose from in terms of cabinetry. We’ve already mentioned that FSC certified wood can be used for cabinet construction. You can also find many formaldehyde-free cabinets. Similar to the adhesive that is used on the underside of carpets, many materials are constructed using the same toxic chemicals. However, the U.S. Congress passed a bill in 2013 that requires formaldehyde emissions be reduced to safer levels. If you want to be extra cautious, stay on the safe side with formaldehyde-free and low-VOC alternatives that include FSC-certified plywood, bamboo plywood, and agrifiber boards, which makes good use of agricultural by-products because it is a renewable resource.
For countertops, check out recycled options, such as ALKEMI™ acrylic and copper countertop material from Renewed Materials Inc. If you’re particularly handy with tools, ask your local marble and granite dealer whether they will sell you stone from their scrapyards—there are some gorgeous materials available, often at a fraction of the original price, if you’re willing to do the legwork.
Windows & Doors
Every DIY homeowner knows that choosing and correctly installing the right windows and doors can make a huge difference in your energy bill. But did you also know that you can choose products that are made from FSC wood or recycled materials, and meet strict indoor air quality standards? Check out Andersen Corp’s wide selection of certified windows, in every size and shape imaginable. For indoor and exterior doors, you might also consider certified brands sold by Masonite, Eggers, and Jeld-Wen, to name a few.
It’s not just what you see, but what you don’t, that matters. A well-insulated home is clearly one of the keys to energy savings all year round. Choose from a large variety of materials certified for their recycled content and indoor air quality performance to assure further environmental benefits. You’ll find good choices at your local home improvement center for all of your insulation needs, including products from Owens Corning and Johns Manville. And this is just scratching the surface!
Modernize is where you come to get inspired, see what's possible, and connect with a professional who will make your dream home a reality.
SCS Media ContactLinda Brown | Senior Vice President
SCS Global Services To find out more, contact Linda Brown, or call 510.452.8010.